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John McCririck: Why the need for speed is killing the St Leger and a 9/1 dark horse for the legends race on Wednesday

The final Classic of the season has lost it's fizz - but this filly could bring it back for us at least on Saturday at a double-digit price.

by John McCririck | September 7, 2015

Doncaster’s four-day festival builds up to the world’s oldest classic, the St Leger – but I’m afraid it’s not the finale to the Classic season it once was.

Back in the day, the St Leger book-ended the “Triple Crown” for the season’s best three-year-olds. It was masterly race planning by our forefathers as we started with the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket over 1m in the Spring, then onto a mid-season Epsom Derby over 1m 4f before the stamina-sapping 1m 6f St Leger test at Doncaster.


For a horse to have the speed to win over a mile, the adaptability to win the Derby and the stamina to win the St Leger is a true test of a racehorse.

The trouble now is that the St Leger has fallen out of favour as breeders want speed in the pedigree. A St Leger winner is widely regarded as slow.

Nijinsky (below) was the last horse to win the Triple Crown this side of the pond – and that was back in 1970!

Ballydoyle’s Camelot came close in 2011. He won the Guineas and Derby but was beaten by Enke in the St Leger. Personally, I don’t think his Irish Derby win on heavy ground helped his cause.

With the unique combinations needed now to win three Classics in a single season and whole change in emphasis on what makes a stallion now – I doubt we’ll ever see another Triple Crown winner again.


St Leger 2015

This year’s contest on Saturday 3.45pm has the ‘dead eight’ runners at the moment and is a rare John Gosden-free race.

There’s no rain forecast which would lead me to take on the top two in the market Order of St George and the Great Voltigeur winner Storm The Stars who I feel need more cut in the ground.

Bondi Beach was a neck second to Storm The Stars at York but is another who likes the ground softer than we’re likely to see at Town Moor.

Each-way alternative:

The filly Simple Verse has been supplemented for the race and is an each-way alternative to the market leaders – provided the eight runners go to post. She will love the ground and proved herself over the 1m 6f trip when winning the Group 3 Lillie Langtry Stakes at Goodwood.

While User Friendly was the last filly to win the St Leger in 1992, both Look Here (2008) Talent (2013) and have both gone close for trainer Ralph Beckett.

She is a cracking each-way bet at 12/1 for Saturday’s feature. (Price correct Tuesday 4pm).


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Wednesday’s racing at Doncaster: 2pm – Nursery Handicap (7f)

A trappy nursery to start the day but Tidal Wave looked a progressive type when I saw him at Newmarket last month, he had built on his debut and won well. He has entries in the Dewhurst, Racing Post Trophy and next year’s Irish 200ineas which shows the confidence the yard has in him. He can get our St Leger week off to a flyer.

MAC’S TIP: Tidal Wave

2:30 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Conditions Stakes (6f)

This looks the perfect opportunity for Elronaq to get off the mark, after two decent runs at Newmarket and Goodwood in Group company. I watched his run in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood and thought he ran a good race considering he got an early bump in the race and conditions were not as fast as he would have liked. He can get back into the winners enclosure today.

MAC’S TIP: Elronaq

3:00 j2o Spritz Scarborough Listed Stakes (5f)

I like Paul Midgley’s  Monsieur Joe who is in superb form, finishing second at York in July before stepping up to Group 2 company at the Curragh in the Sapphire Stakes and then winning last month at Tipperary over this trip. Conditions should be perfect for him and Graham Lee knows the horse well.

MACS TIP: Monsieur Joe

3:35 Clipper Logistics Leger Legends Classified Stakes (1m Straight)

The Legends race is a definite heart and head decision. My heart would love to see AP McCoy land the race on Gannicus where Paddy Power columnist Johnny Murtagh rides Commissar for Ian Williams. But I am going to go with my head and the value bet which has to be Dark Avenger as an each-way alternative.

He finished second last time out at Bath, going down by a neck and looked like a win was just around the corner. The drop back in trip is a further positive along with perfect ground conditions.

MAC’S TIP: Dark Avenger

Make sure you follow me on Twitter @RealMcCririck for all my views through St Leger week!

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